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Introvert Or Extrovert?

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I always considered myself an extrovert because I love people. In fact, spending two years as a full time artist/writer almost made me crazy. Until I did it, I never realized exactly what that means Ė that you are alone, in a studio or in front of a computer, that you might still be in your pajamas at 7pm unless you rally to put on exercise clothes and go for a walk. And that it’s very easy for life to become all about YOU, rather than being about service. †While there are some advantages to this life- and I’m totally not judging it for other people- I realized that it wasnít completely authentic to who I am.

But is this life authentically me? Now Iím living this life surrounded by people where Iím the center of attention everywhere I go. And itís making me a wee bit batty.

Introvert Or Extrovert?

I always thought that an introvert was someone who didnít like being around people and an extrovert was someone who did. I love people, so I always considered myself an extrovert, until someone asked me how I recharged. She told me that introverts recharge alone, while extroverts recharge in the company of others.

It got me thinking. Today, for the first time, Iíve spent four hours basically alone. Given, Iím sitting on a train with hundreds of people. But Lauren is four seats back, and Jayne is six seats forward and the seat next to me is empty. I have my iPod on, playing meditation music, and Iím sitting here writing, while the people around me are sleeping or listening to music or reading their books. So for all practical purposes, I am alone, for the first time in two weeks. And I feel rejuvenated!

Some go to workshops to recharge. Some attend church. Some join support groups or gather with girlfriends for happy hour or visit family. Not me. I go hiking — not with a friend, but all by myself.

Big groups make me a little squirrely. I have a tendency to make a splash when Iím in a group. I havenít quite learned how to fade into the woodwork, so I wind up being the center of attention, and that triggers all this weird shit in me and makes me shrink inward to deflect the attention. Iím learning how to handle that better, but the truth is, as much as I put myself out there in the world with my writing, Iím still kind of shy in real life. I like my solitude. The truth is that I recharge alone. Does that make me an introvert? Iím not sure. Maybe.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at†LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities -†HealHealthCareNow.com and†OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

33 comments

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5:47AM PST on Dec 11, 2012

I definitely recharge in silence and solitude . Can't seem to get enough of it.

5:54PM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I score as slightly extroverted (there is no category for ambivert)...also intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. When I am with people like me I am extroverted...but with STJs (or anyone with 2 of those traits) I am extremely introverted--they completely drain me...if I hang around long enough to give them a chance.

10:55AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

Thanks for posting. As a previous poster mentioned, I feel that introversion/extroversion is a scale, not an "either/or". For me, the only people I really enjoy being around are those who are most closest to me. I find anyone else, even casual friends and most of my family, to be as exhausting as they are enjoyable to spend time with. This has nothing to do with them -- it's that being sociable takes effort for me, and makes me feel like I'm not really being myself. But when I need to, I can suck it up and be outgoing and personable. So I think introverts often have to learn to be more outgoing in order to fit in, which can make it hard to see how introverted a person really is and to really get to know that person as they really are. Which may be how they want it.

12:39PM PDT on Oct 30, 2010

i don't believe this is another "either/or" choice. years ago, i took the MMPI (Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Indicator) in a business/psych class. While no test of this sort is entirely accurate, i learned something really valuable. I am an introvert and an extrovert. how i am seemed to be driven by situational needs at that time. From this, I learned to be either one or the other WHEN I NEED IT, not when it is dictated by some outside expectations. for me, this was an important lesson. i just think that everyone is part both and should be as comfortable with either preference and realize the needs we have as individuals.

1:08PM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

She found this out now? Life is all about me...until someone important comes up in my life and I'll take away some me time to serve their needs for a while but one's life cannot be ALL about friendship or love. You can't be around people ALL the time! There's a saying in my family 'You're born alone, you live alone and you die alone' and I'm more than happy with being alone. Always have been, determined that I'll stay that way.

1:14AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

I think the more extroverted one is, the more important introversion might become as well.

For instance, I find people absolutely fascinating. I find myself studying the tiniest things about them, wondering what they're really thinking, if they're comfortable, what they might need... When I'm around a living, breathing human being, I can't just disappear comfortably into my own little world but rather am quite compelled by the psychic energy I can feel emanating from that person. I feel myself needing to attend, acknowledge and extend positive personal regard.... whew! That can really get tiresome.

And so I absolutely relish time alone; it's the only time I can really relax. My mother was exactly like that, but she had it in spades. I think a lot of this has a basis in manic traits... one is constantly, if unconsciously, searching for "targets" to expend that extra nervous energy on. Sometimes this can relegate that other person to a bit of an afterthought.

I try to catch myself on this and mitigate it where it seems called for. Otherwise, whether "introvert" or "extrovert," you're possibly not being totally honest with either yourself or the other.

10:03PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

Some introverts look like extroverts as a camouflage device.

6:10PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

Whew. Don't know how you do it, Lissa, with all that beautiful wilderness around you and have constant visitors. Not for me, I guess, but to each his/her own. People make me jump! I love solitude - no phones, no pets, just the wild country and the "silence' of the great Earth Mother. Heaven!!!

5:46PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

This intro/extrovert is just an academic question. Noone is 100% one or the other. How you recharge depends on what's currently going on in your life and what kind of people you are blessed or cursed to interact with.
Making oneself a center of attention is a gift of charisma fed by ego-stroking reward, but of course it's energetically depleting. You don't need to live in a crowded city to achieve attention, many people get the world's attention completely alone, online.

1:45PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010

Interesting question about recharging. Thanks.

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